Accessibility Up in The House

Look at the two images below. Both are the footer section of the White House website. The first one is dated Jan. 15, 2021. The second one, Jan. 25, 2021.

Putting the obvious difference in the look and feel aside, what do you notice? Think A11Y. Think inclusivity.

Foot of whitehouse.gov on Feb. 15, 2021 with a black background with gold dialog box to sign up for updates, drawing of the White House in the lower, center and white links at the bottom.

whitehouse.gov, footer, January 15, 2021

 


Foot of whitehouse.gov on Feb. 25, 2021 white background, dialog box boarded in blue, small icon of the white house, toggle switches to the left for contrast and font size. 

whitehouse.gov, footer, January 25, 2021


Making a Statement on Accessibility

"This commitment to accessibility for all begins with this site and our efforts to ensure all functionality and all content is accessible to all Americans" is the first line of the new whitehouse.gov accessibility statement. The statement goes on to layout the exact standards to which the accessibility efforts will be measured. Those standards are WCAG 2.1, AA.

Right hand corner of the website footer with the link "Accessibility Statement" boxed in red for highlight. 

Accessibility statements are not new to the White House website, although the previous administration’s website did not have one available. The George W. Bush administration website included an accessibility statement, as did the Obama administration website.

As mentioned in the DubBlog post Make A Statement, providing a well-written accessibility statement on your website shows your visitors your intent and commitment to accessibility for all.

High Contrast / Large Font

Visitors to whitehouse.gov can now optimize the contrast between the text and the background. This feature helps make the text easier to read for people with moderately low vision, and it can help reduce eye strain no matter one's visual ability.

Also, new to the White House website is visitors' ability to change text size without sacrificing page layout. Now users don’t have to depend on their browser to "up" their text size.


Left hand side of the webpage, mouseover icon for contrast. A box pops up with the words "Toggle High Contrast" Left hand side of the webpage, mouseover icon for font size. A box pops up with the words "Toggle Large Font Size"

Getting Inclusive

Wondering what inclusivity has to do with accessibility? Inclusive design and designing with accessibility in mind have the same goal: an equal user experience for all.

The new whitehouse.gov has brought back "La Casa Blanca" after a 4-year hiatus in the spirit of inclusivity. The Census Bureau reported in 2016 that Spanish was "by far" the largest non-English language spoken in the U.S. (spoken by 13.3% of the population ages 5 and older, 7% of the total U.S. population).1 

Left hand corner of the website footer with the link "Espanol" boxed in red for highlight.


Another positive change is on the "Contact Us" form, which now provides gender-inclusive pronoun and prefix choices, demonstrating a big step towards inclusion. 

Pronoun drop-down box with new choices for the user when completing the Contact Us form.

Happy Easter!

What? What does Easter have to do with accessibility? Nothing, really, but the creators of the new whitehouse.gov did leave a little something for all you code inspector types.

If you follow the link in the Easter egg, you will end up at the US Digital Services employment application website. US Digital Services is an organization that guides the administration in advancing technology.

 The code used to operate the whitehouse.gov website with the Easter egg code written as a comment.

 

The Fundamental Principle

In an interview with Fast Company, Rob Flaherty, White House director of digital strategy, said: "accessibility was top of mind."

In that same interview, Ben Ostrower, founder and creative director of Wide Eye, the design firm that revamped whitehouse.gov, said, "Our whole pitch, that we assembled in about two to three days, was the idea that the White House is the people’s house."

Resources

Maggie Vaughan, CPACC
~ friend of DubBot, A11Y practitioner in higher ed